Monday, March 26, 2012

The Anzac Day centenary study: just how huge a Murdoch beat-up is it?

It's this huge: the tiny section of the study that's getting so reported on starts like this:
There are four areas of potential concern surrounding the commemorations. None of these are definitive problems, but rather points that should be explicitly considered in order to ensure that they do not introduce unexpected negative complications

So we have frothing-at-the-mouth online commentors complaining that this "government research" (actually a government-funded study performed by an independently-owned market research company) has suggested that the Anzac Day centenary itself is a problem, when all that it's suggested is that there might be possible concerns, which are definitely not an obstacle to the actual commemoration going ahead.
And those concerns?
  1. Multiculturalism: contrary to the misleading reporting about how "multiculturalism" is somehow an inherent obstacle to the Anzac Day centenary itself, the one and only point raised as a multicultural "issue" was this: should Anzac Day be an opportunity for commemoration of non-Australian military service by people who immigrated to Australia? That is the ONLY "multicultural" issue that was raised as potentially divisive, precisely because public opinion is divided on that one narrow issue. The total other issues related to "multiculturalism" raised in this report? ZERO.

  2. The balance of Commemoration versus Celebration: of zero interest to News Limited, this is an issue that may not have been highlighted if this study had not been done. In my original drafts for these blog posts, I often used the word "celebration", until I realised by the Anzac Centenary report's use of the word "commemoration" that I wasn't actually celebrating the contributions of my father and grandfather to the Australian army, I was commemorating them. This fundamental understanding of what Anzac Day is really about is important, and it's a good thing that the difference has now been highlighted. News Limited makes no mention of this positive contribution of the report

  3. Current events: the report makes clear that this is a minor issue, and even then only of concern to younger people:
    Though only suggested in the research groups, and mostly by younger participants, the potential impact of current events should be considered

    This is not a reference to any specific current event, but any possible future event that may or may not be happening come April 2015. It was suggested that an unpopular conflict may reduce community engagement with Anzac Day. This possibility of reduced engagement was seen as a BAD thing. At no point did News Limited mention this desire on the behalf of the study authors to improve, not detract from, Anzac Day commemorations.

  4. Veterans' standards of living: as the son of an elderly veteran, this is important to me, and I'm glad it's being raised. We can and should ensure that commemorations honouring service are backed up with actual results for veterans in the area of health especially. Again, this is something that will improve engagement with Anzac Day. Again, News Limited does not mention anything about this goal of the study authors in improving, not detracting from, Anzac Day commemorations.

Oh, and that alleged quotation about Anzac Day being supposedly "just a party for drunk yobbos?", the headline for the Daily Telegraph story on the issue? It doesn't appear to exist. What does exist are concerns expressed by the focus group participants themselves - NOT by the government, and NOT by the market research group that conducted the study - that bad behaviour on Anzac Day is becoming a problem, and that this is not what Anzac Day stands for. Those complaining about this part of the study, instead of shooting the messenger, should instead perhaps ask why this perception of some bad behaviour occurring at Anzac Day exists in the first place. Maybe, just maybe, because there is some? Or is it too "politically correct" (and therefore unmentionable) to even dare to suggest such a thing?

The full text of the report is in fact publicly available: Department of Veterans' Affairs: "A century of service" Community Research. The kicker? This study is from 2010. Why all the bluster from News Limited about an "exclusive" report on information that, as it turns out, has been in the public eye for the past 2 years?

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